Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WRETCH FALAFEL ARCHIVES - THE DICKIES - Interview with Leonard Graves Phillips 3/6/99 - Originally appeared in NOSEBLEED 19

In terms of significant historic US pop punk, the forerunners will always be the Ramones and the Dickies, and while the bowl-hair freaks from Queens have the crown wrapped up pretty much forever, their one regret must be the lack of at least one international hit single. The Dickies achieved this with their rendition of the Banana Splits theme tune, reaching *7 in the UK charts in 1979. One of a long line of helium pop covers, the alleged tributes began with their debut single, PARANOID (by some other drugged up legends) and continued as an almost equal charade of dismantlements to some of the bands wonderful original material. Long after the A&M dissolution, the decline of commercial punk rock, the dawn of synthesiser and invitations to appear on Top Of The Pops, Leonard Graves Phillips, Stan Lee, and whatever cohorts they could bully and enslave soldiered on regardless, peddling juvenile travesty, weird sex, penis puppetry and two minute epics about cripples to the legions of fuck ups willing to believe that a world without REM could exist. If the music world didn't need the Dickies, then the Dickies certainly didn't need the music world either. To this day, well worn classics like " Nights In White Satin ", " Sounds of Silence "and" Eve of Destruction" go hand in hand with such flawed gems as "Hideous", "Give It Back" and "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)". Very few bands in history have such a modest claim to their credit!

BOZ - I was just talking to Dickie Hammond... do you reckon you're in good hands with him as your tour manager?
LGP - Yeah ( laughs )... yeah, he's alright.
BOZ - I wanna talk about your new LP... I read somewhere that it's just covers... is that true... what sort of stuff is on it???
LGP - Well, the reason for doing it was strictly a money thing... I was in Portland, Oregon and I'd fallen in love and thought if I had some quick record company advance, I'd be able to fix my life, you know, and close the deal from a bar stool... so it wasn't 'til later that we decided... the Dickies are kind of well known for certain covers that we do... so instead of it being a record of what you would call formula Dickies covers, we decided to do what a lot of bands do... basically find songs that we liked a lot that we thought we could do well with the arrangement of and just do our little tribute to them... but it's everything from... a cover of a Weirdo's song, which is a local LA band we liked in the early days, and as far as the other songs... we covered The Beatles, Iron Butterfly, Uriah Heep, the Hollies, Donnovan and The Knack...
BOZ - It's a good mix.
LGP - Yeah.
BOZ - It's like what the Ramones did a few years back...
LGP - Yeah, that ACID EATERS record, right? I think the theme of their thing was primarily 60s and psychedelic and we didn't really intend for the record to have that theme, but a lot of the music that ended up on it was indeed from the 60s.
BOZ - Have you had much of a press reaction to that yet?
LGP - Well, not a lot... I mean, it's on Triple X which doesn't get that much copy, but yeah, I've read reviews of it and most of them are good.

BOZ - Yeah, I was just about to mention TripleX Records... I didn't even know that label still existed... Do you find that people in Europe approach you to say that they can't get the stuff... you definitely can't get shit here...
LGP - Oh yeah, yeah... I've known that for a good few years... the distribution for them over here is terrible... hopefully that will be different with the NOFX thing... with the Fat Wreck Chords thing.
BOZ - What's happening with that?
LGP - Well,  we're closing a deal with them. Our next album is going to be on their label. We're supposed to get on that when we get home.

BOZ - There must be so many people who don't even know you exist any more... maybe beyond the odd billing like "Holidays In The Sun"... for the ill informed, what exactly have you been doing since SECOND COMING?
LGP - Well... after SECOND COMING... let's see... we had a couple of years of non activity and then we did a record for Triple X called IDJIT SAVANT which I'm very proud of... it's arguably our best record... I think our best record is either that or DAWN OF... and I like it a lot. We also did the last thing for Triple X....The DOG FROM THE HARE THAT BIT US thing... and we put a single out for Fat Wreck Chords called MY POP THE COP... and as far as recorded material goes, we just contributed a 30 second song for Fat Mike who's putting out a record with 101 different bands all doing 30 second songs... The Offspring and Green Day and Gwar and shit like that on it... Nomeansno and the Damned have a tune on it... we contributed a song to that... we've got half of the next record demoed and we did that 30 second song with Jerry Finn, the guy who produced Rancid and Green Day and he wants to do the next record.

BOZ - Yeah, I'm curious about that song HOWDY DOODY IN THE WOODSHED on the short music compilation...
LGP - Oh... you know about it? ...yeah....
BOZ - because it's the first new material that I've heard in years... at least since the Killer Klowns thing...
LGP - I don't know how difficult it is to get it but if you can find a copy of IDJIT SAVANT... it's good... it's actually good.
BOZ - Well, can you tell me about the 30 second song, 'cos strangely enough... it's probably going to introduce the Dickies to a lot of people for the first time...
LGP - Well... it's just a very sick song and it's 30 seconds and it involves having sex with puppets... basically that's the deal with it... it's very very twisted...
BOZ - A lot has changed in recent years stateside... are you reaping any of the benefits?
LGP - Yeah... well yeah, the interesting thing is that 20 years ago we considered ourselves the end result of any sort of influence that was available in pop, or what you call punk rock culture, and now, 20 years later there's bands out there that actually cite us as an influence, you know, and when we got signed 20 years ago, of course all the major labels were banking on the fact that punk rock was going to be the next big thing... which of course it wasn't... it took about... whatever the fuck... about 20 years for it to kind of find a back door through alternative music... and now punk rock has become it's own little burgeoning industry, which is interesting... it's its own little level of conformity now.

BOZ - So how do your crowds compare with before the whole Epitaph/Fat wreck chords thing took off??
LGP - Well yeah... what's lacking now is that when we do shows now, there's always a contingent, albeit however small, of teenagers and of kids in their late teens or early 20s who will show up off the strength of a Fat Wreck Chord compilation, or the MY POP THE COP single so if the next Fat Wreck Chord album comes off OK there'll probably be a lot more young Dickies fans again.
BOZ - And a lot of people will probably think you're a new band...
LGP - That's right... I mean hopefully they'll get some sort of quick education on us and we'll be perceived as the Aerosmith of punk or something like that and we'll be redeemed somehow.

BOZ - If that happens is there going to be anything done by way of getting the old material back out into the market?
LGP - Boy... I don't know... I don't know... Epitaph was interested in licensing the A&M stuff and Fat Mike was... A&M, for years wanted way too much money to license it... but now that they're dissolved and they're, what... Interscope, maybe there's a chance for that some day.

BOZ - Have you been doing much touring in the states... just internally?
LGP -No... basically in the states, every now and then we'll go to the east coast... we'll do the west coast and the east coast and leave out the middle.
BOZ - What sort of newer bands have you been playing with??
LGP - Travis, ( to the drummer ) can you field that one? 
TRAVIS - Well the last US tour we did, we played some shows with Degeneration from New York city and... we haven't had a support band come with us 'til this year, which is Caffeine from London... it's just been here and there. We did a show with Zeke a couple of weeks ago. We've done some shows with the US Bombs.

BOZ - Obviously, for people who actually know, the test of time has put you kinda up there with the Ramones... like the original gene. What about the newer bands, are there any that you like... any that you feel you have something in common with?
LGP - To be perfectly frank, no... not that I profess to know a lot about whatever the flavour of the week is or who the newer punk rock bands are... The thing about the Dickies was that we were essentially a pop band masquerading as a punk band and always had a hard time receiving any credibility from either camp. The pop bands consider us a punk band, the punk bands consider us a pop band so... still, most of the affinity we share is with 70s type punk bands.

BOZ - What about their reaction to you... are you like legends to these people or just these fucking old freaks with nothing better to do???
LGP - Well, probably both, you know... I think in some circles we're kind of a musicians band because people like... whoever the fuck... Courtney Love says glowing things about us or... Noodles, the guitar player in Offspring... Stan Lee was his idol or some shit like that, but I don't know... I know that basically, when we play with a lot of younger bands, they always come up and say..." It's an honour " and " You're the first record I bought "... you know, that kind of shit.
BOZ - And what's interesting is, if someone was to go out and look for those records, the place they'd probably find them is some collectors shop in London or something for massive amounts of money.... are you in a situation where you see your records at stupid prices a lot?
LGP - Yeah... yeah I see that a lot and it really pisses me off cos I don't have any of that stuff.
BOZ - Why... what did you do with it?
LGP - Sold it all for drugs years ago.
TRAVIS - Costs about 50 dollars for a copy of the first album in the states...

BOZ - Where are the Dickies hotspots... the ones where you can rake in the cash??? It strikes me that you're probably massive in Japan?
LGP - Yeah... you know we've never been to Japan...
BOZ - Really?
LGP - Never... never fucking been there... we're hoping to do that with the Fat Wreck thing.
BOZ - With the Triple X thing, what sort of record sales can you clock up with any given release...
LGP - I have no idea. They're so slippery with the books that we'll never get a real accounting from them,but I would think... maybe about 20,000 in the states and maybe the same in Europe.
BOZ - So, with Fat Wreck Chords... is that something that's been a long time coming... like you've got to do your time with Triple X?
LGP - Yeah... I'm glad that's done.
BOZ - What about the single for Fat Wreck Chords?
LGP - Well... the IDJIT SAVANT record....'94... '95... that's when that came out... and I don't know, did they even do a single off that Rick?
LGP - Oh, that's right... PRETTY BALLERINA, ROADKILL, MAKE IT SO... and the Fat Wreck single... that's only available on vinyl, and I hear that's kinda hard to get just because Mike put it out that way... he wanted it to be real collectible.....
BOZ - Obviously Fat would serve your purpose better in terms of getting your music to the people who want it???
LGP - oh yeah... absolutely... I mean there's such a sense of tribal unity where kids buy records just off of... what would you call it... label recognition or whatever... which I've never understood... I mean, I've generally bought a record because I like the band... but yeah... apparently they will move hundreds of thousands of records just because it's a Fat Wreck Chord... so that's a good thing.
BOZ - And do you think that move will get you out of the circle of dodgy promoters?
LGP - Yeah, we're banking on all of that.

BOZ - What's the greatest misconception about yourselves that you've come across... ever heard any great rumours about yourselves???
LGP - Well... the greatest misconception about me is that, I'm sorry to say this, is that I like punk rock music ( laughs )... that's one of the big misconceptions... I mean, people come up to me and say, "Do you like Bad Religion"... do you like this, do you like that... and it's not that I dislike them, or that I don't like them... but I generally listen to really conventional sappy pop music. I tell some Dickies fans that I was listening to this jazz record and they get this look on their " Say it isn't so! "...
BOZ - That's like that interview footage of the guys who were in the Cockney Rejects telling some guy they liked Uriah Heep and this skinhead guy sitting there crying...
LGP - Yeah...( laughs )

BOZ - Looking back at your material, what are your own favourites... would it be more the covers or originals?
LGP - Well... my favourite cover now... we covered a song called PRETTY BALLERINA... that's on the IDJIT SAVANT album... that's probably my favourite Dickie cover... second to that would be NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN... I thought that came out really well... as far as original stuff goes, I don't know, one of my personal favourites was MAKE IT SO. I thought it was just a great composite Dickies song... it's another song on IDJIT.... I think FAN MAIL is a really good song too.... and ROSEMARY, that's a very well written Dickies song... I'm not too happy with the production of it, but i think it's one of the better songs I've written.

BOZ - Ok, what about bands from when you were first around... there are people who can put their greatest hits roadshow together after 15 years and be more successful than a band that stuck with it... is that annoying or do you care??
LGP - What... that they do that? I say more power to them... you know, I don't have any problem with it... I'm a total capitalist... I'm still wondering when the Clash are going to reform.

BOZ - What sort of impact did you have on other bands that were around in the late 70s... and have you done gigs with any of the other old bands recently?
LGP - I don't know how much we've impacted them... I know the Jam had a pretty funny attitude towards us. They used to slag us off and call us trendies... we were trendies... and we would do the RONDO tune for an encore and they thought that was real music... they'd go " That's a great song.... you should put that in the set "... I saw Captain Sensible in London for a bit... Joey Ramone said something really cool to us, either the last or the second last time we played in New York... they'd finally officially broken up and before we went on stage he said, " You guys have got to carry the torch now ", which was a very sweet thing coming from him.

BOZ - read in an old interview when you were over here in the early 90s touring with the Senseless Things that you had this idea that you were gonna do this rock opera... kinda like your answer to Tommy by the Who... whatever happened to that???
LGP - It's still on the chalk board... it's called GOGMOGOG and it's half written but there's no way could I have gotten the Fat Wreck Chord deal with it... no fucking way would Mike have gone for that. Mike wants a good classic Dickies album so I've got to give him that.
BOZ - So if you produce the goods for a couple of poppy punk rock records, you might be able to squeeze that out of him?
LGP - Yeah, that's right... that's the plan if we start moving records for him, maybe he'll finally let me do it... I know Triple X would let me do it but I don't want to fucking go there...

BOZ - I know you were in Belfast last night... how was that???
LGP - Aw... that was wacky... it was this little squat...
BOZ - The Warzone?
LGP - Yeah, the Warzone... there was vegetarian only food which rubbed me the wrong way... so we asked them would they be so kind as to go out and get us some lunch meat of some kind and they said, " Yeah, but you can't bring it in here "... which really cracked me up,you know, there's piss in the corner, vomit on the walls but you can't bring, like, you know, a nice fresh piece of turkey in there...
BOZ - That's very much a throwback from the 80s... the crasstafarian thing...
LGP - Yes... a very very crusty scenario... but the show went good...
BOZ - Is that something you see in the states?
LGP - Not to that degree, no... I mean I know it exists, but I tend to stay away from whatever sort of hardcore scene there is in the states now...

BOZ - Is there any end in sight... what's the future for the Dickies????
LGP - We do this next record and see what happens... it's just that simple... and at some point, if I stay true to my ambitions, I'll finally do one record of progressive rock... you know, progressive rock music under the guise of the Dickies... and just completely burst everybody's bubble and come full circle... and we'll be done with.
BOZ - So you'll keep that and go out with what everyone would perceive as a stinker?
LGP - Exactly... and what they would perceive as a stinker would be my blaze of glory as it were!

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